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The Popular Front's General Secretariat to remain vacant pending two meetings to be held in the West Bank and Gaza.

It appeared that the election of a successor to George Habash as General
Secretary of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine will not take
place any time soon.  The official spokesman for the Front, Mahir al-Tahir said
that the on-going Congress of the PFLP in Damascus was only the first of three
rounds, the second and third to be held in the West Bank and Gaza.  He told the
press that the election of a new General Secretary would not take place before
all three rounds have been concluded.

Salih Mubarak, Director of Habash's office said that "Habash had submitted his resignation last Thursday evening" to the Sixth Congress of the Popular Front which began its work in Damascus day before yesterday.

Al-Tahir made it clear that Habash, "desired to step down from his post as General Secretary because he believes in renewal and democracy and wants to devote his time to intellectual and research work and to setting up a center for studies to draw lessons from half a century of conflict."

Habash assumed the role of General Secretary of the PFLP when it was established 33 years ago.

According to al-Tahir, the new leadership bodies of the Front that will be elected by the current Congress would be the ones to decide on Habash's resignation, noting that a new Central Committee and a new Politbureau were going to be elected.

The Congress of the PFLP is taking place in three rounds. The first is being held in Damascus, headquarters of the Popular Front. The second and third rounds will be held "soon" in Gaza and the West Bank. Al-Tahir clarified that, "the choice of a new General Secretary will only take place after the three rounds have been completed."

Al-Tahir stressed that the Congress would "affirm the right of refugees to return to their homes, the unity of the Palestine Liberation Organization, the issue of the Arab Nation being the strategic depth for the Palestinian struggle, the importance of the territories occupied in 1948, and the role of the people in those territories."

When submitting his resignation, Habash expressed his confidence in the ability of the Popular Front to renew itself and continue the struggle until its aims are attained.

Al-Tahir explained that Habash had wanted to resign seven years ago but his supporters had always requested that he postpone that decision.

Politbureau member Abu Ahmad Fu'ad said that he considered the chances of Abu Ali Mustafa's succeeding Habash as leader of the Front to be good.

Abu Ali Mustafa had already assumed actual leadership of the Front for several years due to the deterioration of Habash's health, after he suffered a stroke in the early eighties.

In other news, a Palestinian official who asked to remain anonymous said that Abu Ali Mustafa "seeks to be a balance point between the differing currents" inside the Popular Front. He explained that, "there are several political tendencies inside the Popular Front, but it appears that they agree upon their co-existence." He added that, "rejectionism dominates the political orientation of the PFLP outside Palestine, while the dominant orientation within Palestinian territories is more realistic and calls for cooperation with the Palestine Authority, with some members calling for the PFLP to participate in the negotiations with Israel."

Abu Ali Mustafa returned to the territories under the autonomous Palestine Authority last year and considers the Oslo agreements to be a reality on the ground that cannot be ignored.

As is known, Habash has refused to return to the territories run by the autonomous Palestine Authority before a solution is reached for the Palestinian refugees who live in dispersion abroad.

(Agence France Presse)

-- Verbatim translation of an article that appeared in the Beirut daily newspaper "as-Safir" published on 29 April 2000.